May 2015 Newsletter
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Catching Up

   We think we've made the last of the major changes needed on our web stores. We say "think" because it seems that we made the last change and something comes up. We started making changes to meet the deadline the Google set ranking sites for mobile friendliness. We met the deadline but had to make some major changes. 
    We are testing some live chat software. The Live Chat link is shown in the right sidebox on some sites. It will indicate whether we are online or offline. Hours are intermittent right now but we make an effort to go live when we're around a computer. We even go live in the evenings sometimes. You can leave a message. If you do want to chat suggest a time and we'll schedule a chat.
     We are now offering to help entrepreneurs setup a low cost ecommerce store with a blog. We have been selling online since the late 1990's, not always selling strawberry related items. We have learned a lot and it seems appropriate to use some of this knowledge and skills developed to help others get online. Without going into my sales pitch mode checkout a site that I setup to offer these products and services. It's called Low Cost Web Store. We can get you online for much less than most ecommerce developers.

Hydroponics

    We have been getting a lot of questions about growing alpine strawberries in hydroponic systems. It's something we have been testing over time but have not had the time to do extensive testing. This spring we are initiating media trials in bato buckets (dutch buckets). These buckets are used in European production systems for tomatoes and cucumbers but are not used to any extent here in the U.S as far a we know. We have used these buckets for several years and are impressed with them. The trials are not finalized yet but we have started posting limited information on them on our Facebook page. You can follow our progress there. 

    We bought an NFT system to grow veggies and herbs for ourselves. I won't be able to resist trying some alpines in this system. A scientific paper that I purchased online is pushing me to try NFT for alpines. The paper is from 2010 from Italy. It is a well done study with some very interesting results. We're being a little coy here because we plan to publish the results so we don't want to give away too many details just yet.
     I'm not sure if the economics are there yet with fraises des bois in NFT. Production for first year plants is about half of what one can expect in the second year. I'm not sure whether the plants will survive for that long in an NFT system. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we would recommend this system. We do know that the Bato buckets work. We have overwintered alpines in them and have grown them for as long as three years in Bato buckets thus far.
Our Multicultivar plug tray is very popular. It contains 17 plants of each of three cultivars. The large leaves hide the three rows of plants in this tray. It takes time to make up these trays so we are limiting the number available. Click this link to go directly there.
Larger Pots for Alpine Plants
    We did what I thought I'd never do again. We're now offering larger pots of select cultivars on our Plant Store. We are calling these plants Quick Starts. They are smaller than the same product name that we offered a few years ago. This is in an effort to bring down shipping costs and to try to streamline packing. The offerings will be very limited and we will be testing some packaging systems to test whether we will continue offering this size in the future.
 
Previous newsletters can be viewed at Gourmet Berry News

Coupons and Discounts

     Coupons are now much simpler. The codes below will work in any of our Ecwid stores that sell seeds. We encourage customers to use this site, The Strawberry Store. The code is 4WGT4AR56CF8   . The discount is 10%. The minimum order is $15 and the code is valid for a single use through the end of June.   
     The code for purchasing plants and plugs at Alpine Strawberry Plants is 9YO43YNQJLIC   the discount is for 10%. It is good through the end of June and other than a single use per customer there are no other restrictions. Here's your chance to order plugs for fall planting.

Previous newsletters can be viewed at Gourmet Berry NewsThe Strawberry Store and at Alpine Strawberry Plants

More Seed Saving Tips

    I'm starting to realize that one of the big mistakes made in germinating strawberry seeds is overcompressed media. Did you even see video footage of someone transplanting a tree or shrub where they pack the soil after transplanting? I think some strawberry growers are doing the same thing. They pack the media in the cells or plug trays and then sow the seed on the surface. I've even been guilty of doing this.

    The result is a an inpenetrable surface. Surface sowed strawberry seeds need to send their roots into the soil. If the surface is hard, they cannot penetrate. I've seen exposed roots as long as 2". The plants appear to flop around on the surface. In fact, most of the root is above the surface.
    The answer is to gently drop the cell or tray on a hard surface to make sure the media fills the cell or pot and to reduce or eliminate air pockets. You don't want air pockets in the media. Then, if you must gently tap the top of the media in the cell but don't pack it down. I think this seemingly small change will reap benefits in better survival after germination.


Previous newsletters can be viewed at Gourmet Berry News
Here's a quick shot of some of the Pineapple Crush plants in our cold frame. We are about 10 days away from starting to harvest fruit for seeds. It's fortunate that our crop is about a month early since we are very low on seeds of this cultivar. This is proof that cold frames can extend the season. We have spring planted containers that will be blooming soon and will be moved in with these plants. Seed saving should be continuous all spring into summer. BTW: Mason bees are in this frame taking care of pollination duties.

Product Reviews

We encourage you to rate our products. New software installed on our stores will send out requests for reviews. Reviews are important now more than ever for search engine ranking. But, more importantly, they are important to us. We need to know what you think about the products and services. It serves to help us improve.
Did You Know ...... ?

This section is devoted to little tidbits, current trends or events, about strawberries. It may or may not appear in all future newsletters.
    

    One of the most common questions I receive is about sowing multiple seeds per cell or container. I realize that most are trying to get as many plants as possible from seeds that seem to be expensive. Before you thin out the extra seeds consider this. I recommend sowing a "pinch" of seed to the commercial customers that I deal with. Does this sound like a waste?
     It's not a waste. Multiple plants per cell or pot can require extra diligence to keep them from drying out but the positive effect is that you will have more flower stalks in the first year. The larger clump will produce more fruit. It likely won't make a lot of difference in the second year but we're all worried about the here and now.
     As second thought when thinking about waste is whether to remove blooms in the first year or not. I think it's a good idea to remove blossoms from June bearing hybrids that are planted in spring. They need to establish so they can produce future crops. Same is likely true for day neutral hybrids. But,I don't think it's necessary to remove blossoms from spring planted alpines. The fruit load the first spring is limited by the size of the clump as mentioned above. Removing blossoms in my opinion just deprives you of the limited fruit. The plants grow quickly anyhow. I do remove blossoms from fall planted alpines so they can establish before harsh weather comes.


Will reconnect with you next Month. Previous newsletters can be viewed at Gourmet Berry News 
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